Clustered Regularly Interspaced Short Palindromic Repeats, or CRISPR is the hallmark of a bacterial defense system that forms the basis for CRISPR-Cas9 genome editing technology. This efficient and customizable method has the ability to target multiple genes simultaneously, an advantage that sets it apart from other gene editing tools.

In 2012, Jennifer Doudna, an American biochemist based at the University of California, Berkeley showed CRISPR-Cas9 could be used to slice up DNA at any site. This was a significant moment in the science community. CRISPR genome editing technology is powerful in the sense it allows the precise and easy manipulation of the DNA in the nucleus of any cell and has the potential to eliminate the genetic disease by making changes to DNA that will pass down from the generation to generation.

“Gene editing is now as common in a lab as pipetting,” said Jim Carrington, president of the Danforth Center to Agri-Pulse editor Sara Wyant during an interview in February 2018. The major difference is it is a precision tool that will benefit the agriculture community as widely as the medical community. Carrington went on to say, “Ag innovation of this kind is hypercharging research and development with the ability to move agriculture improvements to the market.”

Gene editing can facilitate crop improvement by working with native characteristics of the plant. The tool is less costly, more precise than traditional breeding methods and can deliver improved crops to farmers faster. Examples include crops that are more tolerant to drought, heat, cold and pests, challenges that farmer’s around the globe face every day. CRISPR can also be used to develop crops with longer shelf life and more nutritional value.

The publication Engadget claimed CRISPR is a tool that could bring about the next agriculture revolution and could be used to develop gluten free wheat, helping the one in 100 people who suffer from celiac disease.

This new kind of tinkering around can edit the genetic code for development, “It's a much smarter way to do the kind of crop and livestock improvement we've done since the agricultural revolution," said Hank Greely, director of Stanford University's Center for Law and the Biosciences.

Learn more about CRISPR via the new publication, The CRISPR Journal.